Lesson details

5, 6




Critical thinking skills

Science and engineering practices, processes scientific inquiry-Grade 5

Science and engineering practices, processes scientific inquiry-Grade 6


Make conjectures and explore

Test devices and solutions

Understanding phenomena, processes, and relationships

Other instructional materials or notes: 

Sneakers: From Start to Finish  Samuel G. Woods, Gale Zucker (photographer). Book for 3rd to 5th grade readers.
The Making of a Pair of Sneakers.  The Science Channel looks at shoe manufacturing from materials to testing. [YouTube 14:00]
The Engineering Behind Shoe Design. A University of Southern California site that illuminates the engineering of everyday things looks at the materials and design constraints, such as gait, in today’s athletic footwear.
How running shoes are made. Article traces history of athletic footwear from ancient Greece to modern times and includes overviews of design, materials, and manufacturing process.
If the Shoe Fits, Design It. Article about a University of Massachusetts, Amherst, mechanical engineering student who designed sneakers. (2011)
Step-by-Step Guide to Customizing Sneakers. Think automobile detailing for high-tops.
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro – Shoe Design. Computer aided design of sports shoe. [YouTube 8:54]
How to Make a Custom Running Shoe. Discovery Education [YouTube 5:00]
How to Create A Casual Sports Shoe in icad 3D+. 3-D computer modeling. [YouTube 6:27]
ConceptKicks. Artistic designs and cool shoes.
The Secret Lab Where Nike Developed the Power-Lacing Shoe of Our Dreams. Wired, October 2016. Includes video with Nike innovator Tiffany Beers explaining HyperAdapt’s design.

Design a Sneaker: Object Mass and Product Research

Multiple days
Lesson type: 
Project Based Lesson
Lesson overview: 

Students in upper elementary/early middle school learn about the engineering basics involved in high-performance footwear by following the design process (online or hands-on) to build prototype sneakers from a variety of materials to meet such design requirements as good traction or deep cushioning. They learn how the sole provides support, cushioning, and traction. There also may be some fashion-based functions, including cool colors or added height.

Essential Question: 

Determine the best shoe design for optimal performance?

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Lesson created by:
Martha Cyt
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